Fired Clarksdale workers file lawsuit alleging bias against white city employees

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CLARKSDALE – Barely touching the one-year milestone of the mayor holding office, the City of Clarksdale is facing a lawsuit by three former city employees who allege they were terminated because of racial discrimination.

Three former employees – Obert Douglas, Joseph Cobb Gibbs, and Curtis Boschert – allege that they were fired on July 10, 2017 because they were white.

Douglas served as the fire chief for six years. Gibbs served as the municipal judge for over 20 years. Boschert served as the city attorney for about 14 years.

Ken Murphy, Ed Seals, Chuck Espy, Bo Plunk, and Willie Turner, Jr.

City Hall

Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy (centered) poses in front of City Hall with commissioners Ken Murphy (from left to right), Ed Seals, Timothy “Bo” Plunk, and Willie Turner, Jr. This photo was taken from a pamphlet that gives contact information and services provided by City’s different departments.

According to the complaint, on the day that city officials made the decision to fire Douglas, Gibbs, and Boschert, Mayor Chuck Espy broke the tie that resulted in the firing of the three in a vote that split along racial lines. Commissioners Ed Seals and Willie Turner, Jr., voted “aye” whereas Ken Murphy and Timothy “Bo” Plunk voted “nay.”

The positions of attorney, municipal judge, and fire chief have been filled by African-Americans, in which the plaintiffs claim they are “more qualified” than and that the “…blacks were treated more favorably,” the complaint states.

The plaintiffs also alleged that the city did not grant them pre- or post-termination hearings, and there was no good cause shown to justify them losing their jobs.

The plaintiffs are asking for reinstatement to their positions and back pay, fringe benefits, salary increases, awards, bonuses, and income lost since their termination.

The mayor’s office and city officials declined to comment because of the ongoing litigation.